April 23, 2020
Self-Isolation Inspires New Work and Methods
How do KCAI students respond when they find themselves in the unexpected position of self-isolating at home? By pushing the boundaries of creativity and finding new ways to practice their craft.
Being physically separated from faculty and friends and away from campus studios has its challenges. However, students are using this unique time in history as inspiration to create meaningful work and explore new methods of making.
A student’s film mirrors her current life
In Virginia Spoo’s (Junior, Filmmaking) new film, she plays a young woman who lives in complete isolation in her apartment and never leaves. She performs a series of absurd rituals that lead to a complete transformation. Little did Spoo know when she came up with this concept in November 2019, that months later she would be inhabiting a parallel life.
“The current state of my situation is requiring me to live the way I wrote this character and never leave my apartment. Being isolated with little contact with friends and family has informed my narrative and my performance,” she said.
A fascination with the golden age of Hollywood and film noir-inspired the piece. The black and white film is saturated with darkness and uses special effects to build a feeling of desperation. An underlying theme of mother-daughter relationships and a gallery wall of Joan Crawford publicity stills add to the universal horror theme.
With the help of her boyfriend and the camera, lighting, and sound equipment she checked out from KCAI, Spoo is shooting new scenes in her apartment. When the film is complete it will be around 40 minutes long. Her biggest challenge of working at home is to stay focused without the confines of a structured schedule, but regular check-ins with faculty and video-conferencing with other students help her feel connected. She’s doing most of her work between 1 and 4 a.m., the witching hour, the perfect time to film a horror movie.
Sculpting in nature
Sculpture Senior Joseph Canizales’s work has always been informed by nature. He’s energized by large rock-like sculptures that you find in places like Bryce Canyon or Arches National Park in Utah. Without the resources of a campus studio to work in and limited by the tiny space in his studio apartment, he now finds he is both inspired by nature and sculpting in it.
“Many of the artists I’m inspired by are land artists, so I’m creating my first land art. I’m working on a level of both fact and fiction, disrupting nature and not disrupting it. I’m creating a path of water beside a stream in connection with the geography. I’m moving lots of rocks and terrain,” he said while working in a local park.
Canizales’s adaptive nature and work have been getting national recognition. He spent last summer at Yale Norfolk School of Art and was recently accepted to MFA programs at several prestigious art schools including Cranbrook Academy of Art. He ultimately accepted the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis for outstanding diverse students interested in careers as college or university professors. Students across disciplines compete for the coveted award which comes with full tuition, a large living stipend, health care benefits, travel expenses and more.
“I’m very passionate about being a practicing artist and teaching, and this scholarship gives me the chance to focus on my studies and evolve as an artist and person. In these uncertain times, it’s reassuring to know that my future is stable and I have security for the next two years,” he said.
He went on to say that coming to KCAI was the best decision he ever made. “I’ve received all this great knowledge at KCAI and now it’s time for me to keep growing and moving forward. Someday when I’m teaching, I’ll be able to share everything that I’ve learned.”
Fashioning new methods of making
Working from home is nothing new for Charles Jones (Sophomore, Fiber). He’s been designing custom shoes and clothes at his own company Swavy Custom since high school. He owns a sewing machine, an iron and a clothing rack, and he checked out a dozen books from KCAI about sewing and pattern making so that he can study his craft. When Jones doesn’t have what he needs, he finds new ways to adapt his process.
“I had just finished my weaving project before the campus closed and I had about 100 inches of tinsel yarn. Since I don’t have a dye kitchen at home, I put it up on the walls of my garage, and airbrushed it,” he said. The result was a colorful, versatile piece that can be tied into a dress.
To stay productive, Jones follows his normal school day schedule. He gets up every day at 6:45 a.m., reads for a while, checks his email and gets to work. The biggest adjustment for him is mental. After all, when your bed is in your studio, it’s easy to get distracted.
He also really misses the studio environment. “What I miss the most is being in Fiber with the other students and instructors. I don’t know how the other departments are, but Fiber feels so family-oriented and tight-knit. The instructors are supportive and friendly. It’s just a place where you want to get work done,” he said.
Until everyone can physically be together again, Jones is moving forward with his year-end project, a fashion collection, and his side gig of designing custom clothes and painting. He’s currently working on two small paintings and painting a portrait of a friend’s brother who passed away on the back of a jean jacket. A mural he designed for the Black Archives will be unveiled later this year.
KCAI utterly condemns the ongoing racist treatment of Black Americans that has resulted in the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and in the continued murders, harassment, and prejudice that our Black community members face on a daily basis.
Two beloved faculty members, with over 76 years of combined service to KCAI, are retiring at the end of the 2020 academic year. They’ve inspired generations of students with their relentless passion for teaching and leave an immeasurable impact on the college. Thank you Steve Whitacre and Karen McCoy for your years of service, dedication to our students, and active engagement on campus. Congratulations on your retirement. You will be missed. Fellow faculty share tributes to their accomplishments. Steve Whitacre Professor and Sosland Family Chair of Foundation Joined KCAI in 1969 For over half a century, Steve Whitacre’s remarkable and distinguished career and long-standing leadership of the Foundation program at KCAI has earned national and international recognition. Before coming to KCAI in 1969, Steve studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design and earned both a BFA and MFA from Ohio University. According to the artist and educator, his studio practice continues to explore the estuary between art and architecture in relationship to sculpture and personal, poetic language. Steve’s works are held in many private collections and have been widely exhibited in this country, England, Scotland, and Italy. He has taught and led projects at the Cranbrook Academy of Art read more…
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